Unnecessary complexity – I’ve been thinking about why some online courses are successful…why some technology tools are adopted by “the majority”…how the type of technology selected can assist in better learning…
It’s a tool sophistication vs. user needs issue. Consider Microsoft Word – it’s a feature rich program…it can be used for collaboration, commenting, change tracking, document merging, etc. Yet, most people use it as a word processor – typing out documents and applying basic formatting. Most people probably only use about 10% of the functionality of Word.
There is a correlation between user comfort with a tool and user need for using the tool (tool complexity vs. learner need). Dreamweaver is an excellent web design program. For simple webpages, most people are better off using a tool like Netscape Composer. Why? Composer provides only the functionality needed by a new user. It’s simple to learn…and it works. The Dreamweaver interface can be intimidating (in fairness, software designers attempt overcome the complexity/need concern by keeping core functionality prominent and “hiding” complex features in drop down menus).
What does this have to do with elearning? In this forum, I advocate for simple teaching tools (blogs, RSS, wikis, simple social technologies) and for flexible/extendable learning environments (communities of practices). Selecting complex tools that are beyond a learner’s needs result in learner frustration. The tools should be utilitarian and largely unnoticed. Simplicity is the easiest on-ramp to technology adoption and use. I teach a course at RRC called Teaching Online…and I’ve had greatest success staying with simple tools. Acceptance of tool complexity is proportional to use/need. Deciding on the tools is an instructional design issue…using them well is an instructor issue.